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Gimme Five: Rich Media Presentation Systems for Education and the Enterprise

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So instead of recommending any one of these products, I will outline important features to consider and the environments in which they are most useful.

Presentation Capture = Computer Display + Video + Audio
At its most fundamental, a lecture capture system is about recording three elements of a live presentation: camera video of the presenter, stills or video of the presenter’s video screen, and the presenter’s voice via a microphone. The utility of a lecture capture system is taking these three elements and combining them into a single web-based presentation that has them synchronized together.

The end result is supposed to resemble the experience of being at the actual lecture, where you can turn your gaze to the speaker or to the PowerPoint slide (whichever is the center of attention at the time) all while listening to the presenter talk. The typical screen layout gives you a browser window, where the PowerPoint or other computer video is largest and most prominent and video of the presenter is presented in a smaller video to the side, usually accompanied by a navigation window.

The Lineup
Sonic Foundry Mediasite
Mediasite is probably the 800-pound gorilla of the lecture-capture world, and it was the first product to offer full live capture and integration of camera video, computer display, and audio in an all-in-one appliance. The Mediasite Recorder comes in two versions: the RL440 Recorder, which is intended to be installed in a site, and the ML Recorder for portable use.

Sonic Foundry focuses on pretty much all the verticals in the online media industry, including education, enterprise, healthcare, and government. Mediasite’s continued popularity is due mostly to its portable recorder appliance, which is similar to a big VCR.

Accordent PresenterPro
Founded in 1999, Accordent was one of first players in the lecture capture arena, and PresenterPro was Accordent’s first enterprise-level system. Although it’s far more sophisticated, PresenterPro’s genesis lies in one of the original lecture capture tools dating from streaming’s Paleolithic period, the long-discontinued Real Presenter from RealNetworks. It’s a software-based system that runs on the presenter’s computer, capturing presentation slides and integrating them with audio and camera video also captured on the same machine.

Accordent Capture Station
While Accordent is one of the original players in the lecture capture business, it was second (after Mediasite) to market its appliance Capture Station. Also based on a Windows PC, the Capture Station builds on Accordent’s long-standing PresenterPro architecture adding VGA computer video capture.

Like Sonic Foundry, Accordent also markets to nearly all the major verticals in the streaming business, with education, corporate, and the public sectors being major client bases.

Echo360 is born from the 2007 marriage of Virginia-based Anystream’s Apreso and Lectopia, originally developed at the University of Western Australia. Just 2 years ago, Apreso Classroom was the new kid on the block in course capture systems, although its parent company, Anystream, is far from a new player in digital streaming media. Anystream leveraged its experience in video compression and workflow management to provide strong competition to the stalwarts in this market segment.

Echo360 is also a capture appliance-based solution, but it differs from Mediasite and Accordent’s Capture Station by using a newly developed custom-designed box using embedded Linux rather than a Windows PC. Echo360 is almost entirely focused on the education vertical, racking up an impressive résumé of universities and colleges as its clients.

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